Blog Archives

Higher Order Thinking Skills in Minecraft

Minecraft-Pocket-Edition blooms

I have uploaded my first video to YouTube (please be kind interwebs).

I Identified all three Higher Order Thinking Skills in Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy – analyzing, evaluating, and creating.  In the future, I plan to upload a walk-through  of Bad Piggies and Dragon Box.  These were the games I asked my participants to play for my dissertation on Higher Order Thinking Skills in iPad Games.

Video Games Build Critical Thinking Skills

Jordan Shapiro, gave a great talk on “Critical Thinking And Video Games: Scalable Pedagogy For The Future.”

Jordan Shapiro, author of FREEPLAY: A Video Game Guide to Maximum Euphoric Blisssays that; “Video games teach critical thinking, problem solving skills, and perseverance while building metacognitive skills.  Game-based learning can provide systematic, data driven teaching in a way that forces creative problem solving rather than rote memorization.  And video games can do that in a way that is replicable, scalable, and increasingly affordable enough that we can distribute it globally and equitably.”

To read more click here;

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanshapiro/2014/03/19/heres-why-we-need-video-games-in-every-classroom/

Learning with Minecraft

Chris Shores writes;

“Brian Westbrook was trying his best to keep up with the two dozen Greenfield Middle School students competing for his attention. Calls of “Mr. Westbrook, Mr. Westbrook” rang through the air like a broken record, from students hoping to get tips and tricks on the afternoon’s assignment: building a house.

At one end of the horseshoe-shaped computer lab, 12-year-old Virnalis Mejia focused on his screen as he assembled wooden planks on top of each other across his virtual property. Still unsure of what his final house would look like, Mejia was concentrating for now on building a solid foundation. To gather more wood, he wandered next door to his friend’s yard and went inside a communal storage shed they had built.

This is Minecraft: a Swedish computer game of creativity and survival, where players gather natural resources to build items for their lives. It’s a new option this year at the school’s required Expanded Learning Time after-school program and about 50 students in fourth-grade through seventh-grade will take the class each trimester.

Video games in school? Westbrook, a 25-year-old Greenfield High School alumni, has heard the skepticism before. Although he believes it’s important for children to participate in a range of activities, he’s not buying the argument that video games are a waste of time.

“I’ve always felt that there’s a kind of deeper educational aspect to games that a lot of people don’t realize,” he said. In Minecraft, creativity and logical reasoning can seemingly produce anything; some hardcore gamers across the country have used the game’s virtual minerals to create an electrical wiring system that can play Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the click of a button or calculate math functions on a giant computer that’s built completely in the digital world.

Since Swedish computer programmer Markus Persson developed Minecraft in 2009, the game has exploded in popularity across the world. After years of unofficial release, it was fully published in November 2011. When a Microsoft XBox 360 edition came out six months later, game developers sold four million copies in five months, according to Minecraft.net.

It wasn’t until this year, though, that Westbrook pitched the idea of an after-school class to Middle School Principal Gary Tashjian. It didn’t take much to convince the principal, who called the game “a big hit” for many of his students.

“More than just a mindless computer video game, it challenges students to be creative and build extensive communities,” said Tashjian, adding that the school tries to find a mix of extended learning time offerings for students. Students attend the enrichment classes twice a week for 80 minutes each day. On other days, the extra block is dedicated toward things like standardized test preparation and academic tutoring.

In the class, Westbrook uses “Minecraft EDU,” a modified version of the game built by the United States and Finland, which allows him as a teacher to change or block off parts of the digital world his students all share. It also gives the class access to another world full of historical monuments and artifacts ­— a chance to embed video games with history and geography lessons.

Westbrook said some of his fourth- and fifth-grade students don’t have extensive computer experience. While they slowly master the game, they’re also learning how to use and manipulate computer applications — skills they’ll need to learn for real-world applications that extend beyond games.

Many of the older students though, the ones tasked with building a house, have been playing for years.

There were some traditional houses, but one built his completely underground and another incorporated an underwater room.

Dylan Carlo, 12, decided to have one entire wall of his house built of glass. In this class, since students are still getting the hang of the game, he was able to acquire free materials from a virtual store that Westbrook built.

Carlo explained the elaborate process he would normally have to go through to build this type of house: collect cobblestones, build a furnace, gather sand, melt it in the furnace and then take those glass pieces back to the construction site.

Mejia, the student accessing his supplies from an adjacent storage shed, said he learns new things about the game all the time.

“(In) Minecraft, you can do whatever you want to do. There’s no rules,” he said. “It’s fun because you can be creative.”

Its freedom can be puzzling for gamers who prefer structure, levels and final bosses. Even Westbrook, a lifelong gamer, took awhile to warm up to its loose style.

Still, developers have added goals and challenges for people.

Playing in survival mode, as opposed to creative mode, means that the individual needs to be smarter about what items they build and when. They need to use tools to find and eat food so that their hunger and health bar levels don’t drop too low. A shelter is crucial at night to protect against zombies who swarm in the darkness, ready to attack.

Fighting zombies is generally an extracurricular activity. In Westbrook’s class, students are instead focused on the game’s creative mode and collaborating with their peers to build and explore a digital world.

Still, some things are likely to occur in a room of two dozen middle school students, no matter what they are doing.

Halfway through one afternoon class, Westbrook had to intervene briefly when one student stole another’s digital sword. As the teacher, he can freeze student play or turn off their ability to chat with others.

By the end of class, everyone was getting along. The only chaos was due to an onslaught of requests directed at Westbrook — typically to make a new item available in the store.”

To read the full article by Chris Shores click here;

http://www.recorder.com/news/townbytown/greenfield/10208991-95/minecraft-popular-video-game-builds-students-interest-in-learning

Video Games Help Girls to Develop Math and Spatial Reasoning Skills

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of Mind/Shift writes that;

“Girls should play more video games. That’s one of the unexpected lessons I take away from a rash of recent studies on the importance of—and the malleability of—spatial skills.

First, why spatial skills matter: The ability to mentally manipulate shapes and otherwise understand how the three-dimensional world works turns out to be an important predictor of creative and scholarly achievements, according to research published this month in the journal Psychological Science. The long-term study found that 13-year-olds’ scores on traditional measures of mathematical and verbal reasoning predicted the number of scholarly papers and patents these individuals produced three decades later.

But high scores on tests of spatial ability taken at age 13 predicted something more surprising: the likelihood that the individual would develop new knowledge and produce innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the domains collectively known as STEM.

The good news is that spatial abilities can get better with practice. A meta-analysis of 217 research studies, published in the journal Psychological Science last year, concluded that “spatial skills are malleable, durable and transferable”: that is, spatial skills can be improved by training; these improvements persist over time; and they “transfer” to tasks that are different from the tasks used in the training.

This last point is supported by a study published just last month in the Journal of Cognition and Development, which reported that training children in spatial reasoning can improve their performance in math. A single twenty-minute training session in spatial skills enhanced participants’ ability to solve math problems, suggesting that the training “primes” the brain to tackle arithmetic, says study author and Michigan State University education professor Kelly Mix.

Playing an action video game “can virtually eliminate” the gender difference in a basic capacity they call spatial attention.

Findings like these have led some researchers to advocate for the addition of spatial-skills training to the school curriculum. That’s not a bad idea, but here’s another way to think about it: the informal education children receive can be just as important as what they learn in the classroom. We need to think more carefully about how kids’ formal and informal educational experiences fit together, and how one can fill gaps left by the other.

If traditional math and reading skills are emphasized at school, for example, parents can make sure that spatial skills are accentuated at home—starting early on, with activities as simple as talking about the spatial properties of the world around us. A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Chicago reported that the number of spatial terms (like “circle,” “curvy,” and “edge”) parents used while interacting with their toddlers predicted how many of these kinds of words children themselves produced, and how well they performed on spatial problem-solving tasks at a later age.”

To read the full article by click here;

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/07/can-playing-video-games-give-girls-an-edge-in-math/

Video Games and Spatial Creativity

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Jonathan Wai wrote a very compelling article on “Why We Need To Value Students’ Spatial Creativity”.  He reminds us of the spatially creative inventors and geniuses who have contributed so much to to science and industry.  Then he reveals how schools  neglects the development of spacial creativity.  He makes clear connections between the video games, the development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills and spacial creativity;

“The research is clear that spatial skill is important for STEM careers, and perhaps we can even enhance spatial skill to help more people join the STEM fields. What we need is research directed at understanding the best ways to develop the talent of students who are high spatial, but relatively lower math/verbal. Perhaps spatial video games and online learning coupled with hands on interventions might help these students.”

Wai also writes that;

Spatial thinking “finds meaning in the shape, size, orientation, location, direction or trajectory, of objects,” and their relative positions, and “uses the properties of space as a vehicle for structuring problems, for finding answers, and for expressing solutions.” Spatial skill can be measured through reliable and valid paper-and-pencil tests—primarily ones that assess three dimensional mental visualization and rotation. Read more about examples of items that measure spatial skill here.

But despite the value of these kinds of skills, spatially talented students are, by and large, neglected. Nearly a century ago, a talent search conducted by Lewis Terman used the highly verbal Stanford-Binet in an attempt to discover the brightest kids in California. This test identified a boy named Richard Nixon who would eventually become the U.S. president, but two others would miss the cut likely because the Stanford-Binet did not include a spatial test: William Shockley and Luis Alvarez, who would go on to become famous physicists and win the Nobel Prize.

Today talent searches often use the SAT and ACT which include math, verbal, and writing sections, but do not include a spatial measure. All of the physicists described above (and Tesla who could do integral calculus in his head) would likely qualify today at least on the math section, and Edison would likely have qualified on the verbal section due to his early love of reading.  However, there are many students who have high spatial talent but relatively lower math and verbal talent who are likely missed by modern talent searches and therefore fail to have their talent developed to the extent it could.  Also, because colleges use the SAT and ACT for selecting students, many high spatial students likely do not make it onto college campuses.

Nearly every standardized test given to students today is heavily verbal and mathematical.  Students who have the high spatial and lower math/verbal profile are therefore missed in nearly every school test and their talent likely goes missed, and thus under-developed. What’s more, spatially talented people are often less verbally fluent, and unlikely to be very vocal. Finally, teachers are unlikely to have a high spatial profile themselves (and typically have the inverted profile of high verbal and lower math/spatial), and although they probably do not intend to, they’re more likely to miss seeing talent in students who are not very much like themselves.”

One topic that Wai did not address is the effect of the gender imbalance, in teaching, on the neglect of spacial creativity in US. Schools.  When one gender so dominates the teaching profession, we should expect that certain aspects of creativity will necessarily be neglected.  Gender diversity is better for all professions.  Gender diversity in the teaching profession would go a long way toward fostering the development of spacial creativity in students.

To read the full article by Jonathan Wai on Mind/Shift click here;

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/07/why-we-need-to-value-spatial-creativity/

Coding is the new literacy – games can help

Ira Flatow of Science Friday (one of the best shows on National Public Radio), Interviewed Hadi Partovi of Code.org on the importance of teaching young people to code.  Code.org encouraged the development of CodeCombat – a game that teaches players to program in Java Script.  Learning to code helps students to develop Higher Order Thinking Skills and other crucial  21st Century Skills.

From Science Friday (NPR);

“With smartphones, tablets, and apps, coding is becoming the language of the digital age, but is the U.S. lagging behind? A panel of experts discusses how we can improve our coding literacy and close the programming gap among women and minorities.”

Produced by Alexa Lim, Associate Producer
Produced by Annie Minoff, SciArts Producer
Guests
  • Hadi Partovi
    CEO and Co-founder, Code.org
    Seattle, Washington
  • Jane Margolis
    Senior Researcher
    Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
    University of California, Los Angeles
    Los Angeles, California
  • Vanessa Hurst
    Founder, CodeMontage
    Co-founder, Girl Develop It
    New York, New York
Related Links

Code.org

To listen to the program on Science Friday click here;

http://www.sciencefriday.com/segment/01/24/2014/is-coding-the-language-of-the-digital-age.html

SimCityEDU Develops Higher Order Thinking Skills.

of Fast Company writes that;

SimCityEDU: A Video Game That Tests Kids While Killing The Bubble Test

A $10.3 million collaboration between Electronic Arts, Pearson, and a nonprofit yields a simulation game that tests thinking and emotion, not just knowledge. . .

“We have all these high-stakes assessments focusing the majority of their testing on rote learning and not application of skill,” says Seth Corrigan, the Director of Education & Evaluation for Glasslab. “We’re never going to transform education and prepare kids for success if we don’t transform assessment to look at higher-order skills. Everything pointed to games as the way to do that.”. . .

SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge!, the game I’m playing, debuted last week. For those who played SimCity in the 1990s or 2000s, this PC-based game feels familiar; it’s built on the same bits but radically simplified into chunks that take no more than 10 minutes to play, with specific tasks for the player to complete. But what makes SimCityEDU different from other video games, even other video games that have been modded for educational use, is that while middle school players are figuring out how to play this game, the game will be figuring them out right back. As they are zoning neighborhoods or planning school bus routes, the software is gathering detailed evidence about their thinking processes and skills, and whether they’re engaged or bored.

The creators, a multidisciplinary team known as Glasslab, have a wild ambition. They want to use game-based assessments like these to wean our education system off fill-in-the-bubble tests, which are optimized for gauging memorized content knowledge, and instead start measuring what really matters in the 21st century: how well people can think.

“We have all these high-stakes assessments focusing the majority of their testing on rote learning and not application of skill,” says Seth Corrigan, the Director of Education & Evaluation for Glasslab. “We’re never going to transform education and prepare kids for success if we don’t transform assessment to look at higher-order skills. Everything pointed to games as the way to do that.”

Avoiding Chocolate-Covered Broccoli

With its realistic simulations of energy use, pollution, and zoning, SimCityEDU conforms to Next Generation Science Standards recently created by the National Research Council, and includes reading tasks that match the Common Core. Both are voluntary, state-led attempts to create nationwide benchmarks for learning in K-12 schools. But SimCityEDU is not just about teaching content. It’s designed to gather evidence about students’ “systems thinking.”

To See a great video clip about SimCityEDU click here;

To read the full article by click here; http://www.fastcompany.com/3021180/innovation-agents/simcityedu-a-video-game-that-tests-kids-while-killing-the-bubble-test

Educational Gaming favored by Fed Grant Competition

 

Leila Meyer writes that;

“The United States Department of Education (ED) has overwhelmingly favored educational gaming in its annual Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract awards. This year, 12 of the 20 awards went to educational game and game-related projects.

According to an ED blog post, the fact that so many of this year’s SBIR award recipients are in the field of educational gaming reflects the increasing use of games to motivate and engage students in the classroom and the growth in popularity of mobile devices, which provide an expanded market for educational games. The ED also references “a growing base of evidence indicating that games can be an important and effective component of our strategy to prepare a highly skilled 21st century American workforce.”

Many of this year’s SBIR games winners feature adaptive technology that automatically adjusts difficulty based on the player’s ability, story-based narratives, rewards and competition, an instructional component, and a teacher dashboard that provides teachers with formative assessment results.

The SBIR contract awards provide up to $1.05 million of funding to small businesses that are conducting research and development on commercially viable educational or assistive technology, science, or engineering projects. The SBIR program is managed by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the research division of the ED.”

To read more click here;

http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/05/14/federal-grant-competition-favors-educational-gaming-projects.aspx